Dayton to push for immigrant licenses, tax changes

Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he’ll push again this session to allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain Minnesota drivers licenses.

Lawmakers passed a measure last year that prohibits the administration from taking such a step. Dayton argued at the time that the move was unnecessary, because legislative approval would be needed to make the change.

During an appearance on MPR News Wednesday, Dayton said licensing unauthorized immigrants to drive would improve public safety. He said the prohibition is unwise and a wedge between immigrants and other Minnesotans.

“It’s spiteful, it’s racist, and it just feeds into this just very, very destructive attitude right now toward people coming here from other countries,” he said.

Dayton enacted the license prohibition as part of a larger budget bill. He later called on Republican legislative leaders to reverse the measure in a special session that never materialized.

The governor also intends to try to repeal some tax changes that he objected to in the tax bill the Legislature passed last year.

Dayton wants to repeal tax breaks for tobacco, business property and estates. His objections to those provisions last year led to his veto of House and Senate funding and a months-long court fight.

Revenue Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly told members of the Senate tax committee Wednesday that Dayton will make supplemental budget recommendations next month, including proposed changes to the state tax code to better align with the new federal law. Those recommendations will include the changes he wants to last year’s legislation.

It’s not clear yet whether Dayton will require the changes before he signs a tax conformity bill.

Senate Taxes Committee Chair Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, made it clear his session priority is federal conformity.

“It’s a historic opportunity for us to get something done,” he said. “And I hope we don’t have to revisit last year’s fight, and we can move forward with the current issue.”